It’s a busy week around the Scribd offices (but then, isn’t every week?), filled with mid-afternoon iced coffee re-ups and hours-long creative jam sessions. We wouldn’t trade it for anything, though (except maybe more of that delicious iced coffee from Jittery John’s). Here are the books our team will be settling down with once the caffeine crash hits.
Mallory: Bestselling author Jess Walter’s first collection of short fiction takes you on a panoramic tour of his native Pacific Northwest. Walter, best known for his smash hit Beautiful Ruins, actually got his start writing crime fiction, and his sensitivity to hardship and grit comes through in several of these stories. But what defines this collection is Walter’s trademark humanism — his deep connection with where we came from and how that shapes who we are today.
Niree: Having worked in country clubs and chain restaurants as a teenager and young adult, I thought I knew a thing or two about the food service industry. Anthony Bourdain’s raunchy, juicy, sweaty, and — yes — delicious follow-up to Kitchen Confidential proved me wrong. Along with his personal (and hilarious) anecdotes, Bourdain throws in a dash of invaluable life lessons, like never order the fish on Sundays, ask for your steak well-done (they’ll torch it in the microwave!), or touch the hollandaise at a buffet.
Alex P: I read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in high school, though it frankly blurs together with The Catcher in the Rye in my memory, just as the great film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola merges together with Rebel Without a Cause: all these stories of gritty and misunderstood young men, all unable to acknowledge any emotion beyond anger. Though I enjoyed and admired all of these works at some point, it’s not usually a go-to theme for me these days.
When I found Hinton’s Rumble Fish this week, I started flipping through a few pages out of minor and vaguely nostalgic curiosity. An hour later, I’d finished the whole thing. At less than a hundred pages, it’s an incredibly quick read, and the story is subtly engrossing. It’s a sign of its status as a classic that even with characters named things like “Motorcycle Boy” and “Rusty-James,” this coming-of-age tale of brothers, hero-worship, and abandonment manages to feel surprisingly ageless.
Ashley: Stories about female athletes playing on all-male teams have a special resonance for me as a former ice hockey goalie who played with boys for more than a decade. I started reading Still Kicking by Katie Hnida, the first woman to score in a Division I football game, just wondering how our experiences would compare. “I was fondled, groped, and called sexually explicit names. One player even threw footballs at my head,” Hnida writes in the prologue, and a shiver goes down my spine as I remember the time my whole team conspired to shoot pucks at my head during practice. I found myself wondering, What about female athletes makes many men want to literally beat them over the head, and what sustains these women as they fight this misogyny? For Hnida, that endurance comes from an unbreakable faith and the support of her family and coaches. Reading this has been a rollercoaster: sometimes I smile, sometimes I wish I weren’t reading this on the subway so I could go sob. But despite her struggles, Hnida’s story is ultimately an uplifting one, a story that captures the pure joy of kicking a ball through the uprights.
Justin: I’ve caught a lot of grief in my life for shamelessly loving Beowulf, that oft-maligned standard of Intro to British Lit courses, with its bizarre syntax and sometimes puzzling descriptions (Beowulf opening up his wordhoard while his team of Weather Geats plies the whalepath). But a great translation, like Frederick Rebsamen’s, brings out the music of these old lines and makes them fresh and urgent, from the plodding dread that accompanies Grendel stalking toward the mead hall to the elliptical lament of the last survivor, burying his dead king’s treasure in the earth. This poem is sad, sometimes arrestingly so. It’s no wonder it’s inspired writers as diverse as J.R.R. Tolkien, John Gardner, and Teju Cole.